The Third Force in Folklore Studies: Gary Alan Fine's Sociological Approach




Gary Alan Fine, folklore diamond, sociocultural basis of folklore, urban legends, expressive culture


This paper attempts to offer a critical overview of the theoretical and methodological contribution of micro-sociologist and social psychologist Gary Alan Fine to folklore studies. It begins with a discussion of both the major and most questioned points of his methodology, continues with a consideration of the wider folkloristical framework of his interpretation, and ends with a suggestion for innovation and improvement of Fine's analytical framework for the interpretation of folk narratives.

Gary Alan Fine's most significant contribution to folklore studies was research of rumours and urban legends, including their meaning, function, and influence on indi­vidual behavior. In a series of papers, apart from offering an interpretation of various urban and corporate legends, he also demonstrated methods and means of connecting social and cultural factors with narrative content, in the context of social and eco­nomic structures and relations in post-industrial and late-capitalist global societies. Of special interest are papers in which he analyzes folklore as expressive culture and a form of symbolic communication between small groups, as an important form of self-identification and behavior strategies both from within and without of the group. Fine makes a point when he diagnoses a lack of analyses of this sort in American folklore studies, wishing there were enough to make a significant turn in contemporary folk­loristics. This is why Fine named his new research strategy the «third force». Another dimension of his contribution is the further elaboration of the analytical framework that relies on socio-structural, socio-psychological, symbolical and economical pa­rameters of explanation. For that purpose, he constructed a theoretical and meth­odogical model called the folklore diamond. With his suggestions and critique of the existing state of folklore studies, Gary Alan Fine provided a very significant contri­bution to the science of folklore in general.


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How to Cite

Antonijević, Dragana. 2006. “The Third Force in Folklore Studies: Gary Alan Fine’s Sociological Approach”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 1 (2):125-56.

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